Fringe - on the fringe of being OK?
, 06 Dec 2013
The problem that any new science fiction series faces is that of finding a new story to tell - time travel, alien invaders, alternative universes all have been done before in some shape of other. In print and television and on to the big screen, it's all be covered, from H. G. Wells to Dr. Who to Star Trek and Babylon 5 and the X Files. The clever bit is in finding a new angle on the same old concepts. Does Fringe manage to do this? In my own view, not really - there is no clear wow!' factor that stands out for me. Season 1 - any new programme has to use the first season to establish a base line for its characters. plots and background. I found that trying to cram in a lot of supposedly high end science into a 40 minute episode along with the necessary character development and relationships was too much. For me, the first season would have worked better if there had been just a couple of plots arced across a number of episodes, rather than jamming in too much in a superficial manner, but that is not how networks see things alas. Seasons 2 and 3 - There is not much that is memorable about these for me. so they must have been 'all right' without being special. At least in these, there was time to do more background filling for the characters. Season 4 - This started with a couple of good episodes, with both universes trying to co-operate together and the frictions that this caused, then it nosedived for about 20 programmes. Towards the end of Season 3, the Observers note about restoring the timeline or the like, but there is no indication at the beginning of this season that it is a different timeline to the one at the end of season 3, nor that many years have passed (though the characters do not appear to have aged....). I found this a tedious season by and large because it did not seem to fit in with what had gone before but instead appeared to go off on its own tangent. Season 5 - more of the same for me as with season 4. The whole concept of war with the Observers, the old Fringe team being brought out of amber to fight and win the war bears little resemblance to the concepts set out in the first two or three series. It's rather like a combination of the X Files and V, with neither being that well produced. By the middle of season 5, no longer did I have any empathy for or interest in the fate of the characters, but rather just wanted the thing to end. Then, though, the last three episodes turned out to be really pretty good, but all the same by this stage I was not engaged with the characters or plot sufficiently to worry about their fate. So what else can be said? Well, given that the timeline in series 3 onwards is different from the series 1 and 2, then it would have been more believable if some major character changes had taken place. Let's say, for instance, that Nina Sharp were in charge of Fringe, and Broyles a senator with Astrid running Massive Dynamic - to have the same characters in the same roles and say 'oh, it's a different timeline' did not work for me, even allowing for the relationship between Nina and Olivia. On a more trivial note, there is the season 3 episode in which Olivia manages to immerse herself in the tank on 'the other side' and return briefly to 'this side' just long enough to get a message to Peter - as the show is a 'respectable' one, Olivia comes out of the tank in New York with soaking wet hair both otherwise completley dry, instead of looking like a contestant in the Miss Parallel Universe wet t-shirt contest In the fifth series, episode 5, Walter enters an apartment that has been blocked off for twenty years, and the first thing that is seen as he goes into the room is a lamp burning brightly on a table - that is some energy efficient bulb for sure! Do I have anything good to say about the series? Yes, in that it's not bad, but neither is it great. The plausibility of one scientist having been involved in so many ground breaking and secret research projects is beyond belief. What did work well for me were the episodes in which both sets of characters mixed with each other, causing both friction and mistrust but also in the end some mutual admiration. I liked especially the episodes in which the two Astrids met up. Fringe certainly has been better than some science fiction stuff that I have seen (Odyssey 5 comes to mind as a particularly bad example alas) but not a patch on others (Babylon 5 for instance). Overall impression? Very much 'take it or leave it' with no real feeling of attachment to the characters.
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